The Beauty and Lessons of Support

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“Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration, and we all need to assemble around us the people who care about us and support us in times of strife.”
Tim Gunn

It happened in an instant.  I was down on the ground and stunned that I was there. My foot had gone under a tree root on the narrow path, and before I could process the fact that I was falling I was already down.  My arms broke my fall but not before my head hit the ground.  I was shocked and stunned that my peaceful walk ended up this way.  Next came the panic of wondering how I was going to walk the mile back to my car.  Luckily for me my husband was there playing cheerleader and medic, alternating between saying prayers and coaching me how to walk slowly and keep breathing.  Luckily for me nothing was broken, and aside from the shock of the whole event I was fine.

This incident made me reflect about my vulnerability and question my habit of always saying: “I am okay and I can do it all by myself!”  It also made me have more compassion for others who are dependent on people for support.  I know in that moment of my fall, the support of my husband to encourage me and pray with/for me made a huge difference.  I laughed when I remembered my friend Karen Taylor Good lovingly scolding me when we were traveling together about asking people to help with my luggage.  She thinks nothing of asking someone to lift her heavy bag into the overhead compartment on a plane, or hiring a porter to handle her bags.  My “I can do it myself!” attitude has cost me quite a few back spasms trying to lift my 50-pound bag with all my CDs.

babiesOne of my favorite stories about support is the story of the twins that were born prematurely.  One was doing better than the other and the nurses were concerned about the sister who was underweight and appeared to be struggling.  In a stroke of genius the nurse moved the twins into a crib together and the one baby put her arm around her sister.  Day by day with the support of her sister the other girl improved and they are now healthy happy children.

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I thought about how, 25 years ago on August 24 1989, my five team members and I supported each other as  we swam the English Channel, giving the 6 of us the honor of being the first All American Women’s Relay team to make a successful crossing.  I know I didn’t have it in me to do that swim solo, but with the support of my team I could to my part to accomplish our goal.

The same support has continued for me this month. On July 19th, again with a group of five teammates, we supported each other to swim a relay race across Lake Tahoe.  Each of us was nervous about the cold, performing well in the altitude, and completing the 30 minute, 15 minute and 10 minute legs across the lake.  I was the most concerned about Donna.  Before the race she told me of her worries of getting too cold and letting the team down if she had to be pulled.  Even though our team name was “Extreme Moderation” and we were doing this race just for fun, she didn’t want to wear a wetsuit which would disqualify us.  When we were successful and finished the race in 5 hours I asked her how she felt now.  With tears in her eyes she said that when she just surrendered into the beautiful blue water all around her, looked up at the mountains surrounding the lake, the feeling of being held by Mother Earth, and then looked at all of us on the boat cheering her on and supporting her, she realized that the cold water was just one small piece of the whole event.  In other words: the cold was not an issue when she surrendered into the beauty and support of nature and her teammates.

struggleAs I continue to look at and practice allowing, receiving, and accepting more support in my life I wonder for you…are there any places in your life that you could do the same?

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